It’s been a while. I’ve been in a month long recovery program. I needed to cure my addition to supporting a previously exciting, entertaining and competitive football team. Thankfully the stupid international break intervened to help me ween myself off the perpetual disappointment and frustration of watching Arsenal. I can’t remember when I last could be arsed to write a review given that the observations were entirely predictable from game to game and nothing is really changing. Or is it?
So why now? Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope. Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming express train. Sure we won. As we did against Stoke and CSKA. But I think there are some themes that continue to shine through the dark clouds of Arsenal.
Mark me down as a skeptic for Aubameyang. I’ve not really gotten my head round this signing. All he’s DM goals were poachers goal. And we know how unsuccessful fox-in-the-boxes has been at Arsenal – just google Francis Jeffers. But, even with the moronic haircut, he does score goals. And though our dearly missed French hulk could have started that first goal scoring move, Giroud would still be rotating to run into the box by the time the ball had already hit the back of the net. So, maybe, just maybe I’ll be convinced that the BigA can help us.
Did I mention that I love MickeyTarren? I liked him before he signed for DarthVader. And I love him now. Though I’m worried that this knee injury could wipe out his season. But, combined with BigA we are far better moving forward. And I’ve always appreciated a good Cigarette. Especially ones that scores. And as Bould noted, he is a surprisingly good football player. One that can now score goals – even if he did not today.
I don’t really know what to do with Welbeck. From week to week he is more BadBeck that GoodBeck. Today we saw the two extremes. He’s first goal was a classic deflection and he’s last was an opportunistic, aggressive game winning goal. But just before that we saw that most classic of Badbeck misses from inches out. Only Danny could miss that. But, he worked hard the entire game and provided cover for our fullbacks. And boy, did we need that help.
This defense is beyond porous. We should set up a tax deductible charity for the amount we give away. If there is one (and trust there is more than one) clear end of season action it’s to get as much money as we can for Mustafi. He’s beyond unreliable. He is a contagious disaster waiting to happen. Sure, he’ll score the odd vital goal. He can be aggressive and determine in challenging for the ball. But he’s a liability. Too many times this year we’ve seen him make just bone-head decisions. Today was truly pathetic. No other premier league center-half would even dream of not taking responsibility for clearing that ball. It’s your job. And nearly every time he would do that. He put himself in the right position and he would normally do the right thing. But that’s the problem with him. He has brain-farts. Consider the Man City game. Consider some of his distribution. And, I fear, his unpredictability is spreading like a virus through the team. Consider the goal against CSKA when he panic hoofed the ball across the penalty box. I don’t understand how a German International can make these bone-head decisions. But nor should we expect him to change. He might be quite young, at 25, but I fear for Arsenal (even more than I already do) if we preserve with him beyond this season. He is contaminating Kosclieny who’s form has noticeably deteriorated. It could be the accumulation of injuries or it could be the disease that is he’s partner. But rather than thinking we need another center half it’s now looking like we might need two.
Also, it’s getting harder to distinguish between Mustafi and Chambers. Except, just maybe, Chambers might be better. His problem, aside from looking like Mustafi, is that he’s too slow. And he’s distribution is dodgy as well. It says something when the best defender is Bellerin – except today he wasn’t. We did not have one. However, mid-week he was.
The team selection made sense today. I was excited to see Nelson in the team but, of course, that was offset by the presence of Ob1. He’s even worse than Mustafi except that he plays less frequently now we have MickeyTarren. And thank god for that. Today was classic Ob1. Basically useless interspersed with the odd moment of football skill that makes one think that maybe, just maybe there is potential in this boy and that we should persist. But, I remember that we’ve been saying the same thing now for two years since he scored on his debut against Everton. He’s stood still – literally. He should not be on this squad let alone on the team. He is the poster boy for why this team is unbalanced and broken. On no other top 6 premier league team would he be in the starting eleven. I don’t even think Burnley would take him. He runs around with those flailing arms making poor decisions and incapable of scoring. For example, he’s “attempt” against CSKA mid-week. He is just not good enough. And never will be. It makes me angry that he gets playing time. At least Welbeck works hard and chases back. Ob1, in the Ozil position today, showed the odd moment – he’s through ball to Welbeck for that second goal. At this level though that’s not sufficient. We can’t wait on these one-off moments and then carry him for the rest of the game. It’s mind blowing to think of the grief that Ozil used to attract for he’s perceived lack of effort and contribution. From the beginning he showed he’s world class talent. It’s inconceivable that Ob1 could be in the same team as Ozil. The gulf in ability is far too wide to be explainable by age alone.
So, onto our last enigma. As skeptical as I’ve been on BigA I’ve been a believer in Jack. Something is going on though with Jack. And it’s not good. Today he was outright awful. He was off the pace from the first moment. Not a single pass worked for him. He lost possession. He walked around the pitch. He gave the ball away. We were noticeably weakened when he came on. That’s when we started to backtrack and give into the pressure from Southampton. What has happened to Jack? It can’t be related to his contract situation because once he’s on the pitch that is surely forgotten. And it’s not just today. He was clearly our weakest link midweek. It was only the utter brilliance of Ozil and Ramsey – with help from MickeyTarren and Cigarette – that enabled us to function. Jack was slow, passive and predictable. He was never the quickest player on our team but now he seems to run backwards. In a foot race between him and Giroud I think both of them might lose. My suspicion is that he’s not entirely fit but is fighting through is. He had additional rest over the international break because of his knee injury but he’s come back even worse. But, currently, he’s a massive risk for us. And destined to leave for another team. It would be such a shame after all these years but it’s not looking like he can find his game. He was lucky not to get a red card along with Stephens. He lost the ball on the edge of their penalty area with another pass that was mistimed – he was just off the pace of the game from his first touch. Then as he backtracked he fouled Stephens multiple times and ripping his shirt. All he had to do was push him over if he was being out-paced by a six foot center half. Instead he basically got Elneny sent off as Mariner decided he needed to even up the red card count. Elneny barely touch the Southampton player. And know we’ll miss him for three irrelevant league games. But that also means that the chances of Jack and Ob1 both playing have increased. That kills me. Now I have two players (at least) that I pray are not on our starting team sheet. Which is also why we need MickyTarrien. Here’s a player who Bellerin can actually link up with. Obviously, he could never do that with Walcott nor Ob1. Bellerin’s improvement has correlated directly with the existence of the Armenian.
We got three useless points today. We saw a goal scorer ply his trade and another hard-working Englishman scrap two goals. It’s lucky we had Stoke and Southampton though. Because our defense is shameful. Even against CSKA. If they had someone other than a failed Leicester center-forward, we could have been sunk. And I for one do not believe this game is over. We saw against Osterland from Norway how porous we can be. After the travel out there and with Koz and Mustafi in defense I could still see us throwing this one away. Beyond that it’s hard to see how we could win this. Any half decent team (Athletico, Lazio etc.) will cut us apart.
It’s lucky we can score goals. It’s lucky that we have the best creative midfield player in England. And we lucky that Ramsey is not (yet) injured. We can score goals. And very pretty ones. Borderline poetry. This should be sufficient enjoyment to make watching Arsenal a pleasure. But as a long-term addict, being consistently disappointed drains the fervor and passion. The expectation of unnecessary, careless failure is too painful to experience week after week. Sure we’re now in a winning streak but all the themes are still there. We need to real defensive mid-field player. Xhaka has improved but that is not his natural position.
We are now an amplified version of Arsene’s teams – sublime in attack and suicidal in defense. We were unnecessarily close to throwing away the points today. We have been the beneficiaries of penalties in recent weeks. Like London busses, you wait for ever and then two come along at the same time. But Stoke were much poorer than Southampton. They had chances today to win. Austin should have scored at the end. But by then we’d fallen back in the tepid, tame Arsenal that we were in the first half against Stoke. It’s a form of schizophrenia. We had this all season. In the league, I can’t remember when we performed for both half’s of a game.
The enjoyment in supporting this team has been on the wane for a few years now. The continual disappointment combined with the clearly sub-par player selection. This addiction has provided so much happiness that maybe it’s payback time. This is what it could be like supporting Everton, West Ham or Sp*rs. We deserve better than that. And we have some genuine world-class players who also deserve better. Come the end of this painful season the Club will have to finally make the move to protect our future. Ultimately this lands at the feet of AW. He is the one supporting Ob1, Mustafi and Jack. Its’ by no means certain that another manager will improve our cub – look at the disaster than is Man United. But it’s no longer acceptable to ignore the future. We have to finally step into it. But before then we have a journey backward in time – back into the time of the Czar and peasants. Let’s hope the don’t decide to deploy the nerve gas. It’s entirely possible our season could end in Russia just as quickly as England’s surely will.